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  • Writer's pictureMalik Lendell

Renaming Thomas Jefferson Library is Long Overdue

The Board of Curators decided to name Mizzou’s new Medical Center after a senator who does not believe in the federal or state public health recommendations for COVID. Regardless, the Roy Blunt NextGen Medical Center will remain a symbol of the UM-System's commitment to the political football that has infiltrated our schools. According to President Mun Choi, who often acts as the Republican party's puppet, the senator "has championed the mission of public education in Missouri."

If Mun Choi and the Republican-controlled Board of Curators want to recognize their preferred heroes, they can have at it, but students should also get the opportunity to name new buildings on our campus. We should even be able to rename current campus buildings or roads as we please.

For instance, some students, myself included, believe that the Thomas Jefferson Library should be renamed.

While he acknowledges that there are other changes that need to be made on campus to further equity; the Student Government President, Joseph Methner, agrees.

“Updating the names of buildings is a small and easy step that shows the university will listen to our students,” he says.

While I believe Thomas Jefferson had a few good ideas (i.e., separation of church and state), he was a blatantly racist slave-owner who raped multiple enslaved women. Furthermore, the reason his name is so common in the Midwest is due to the Louisiana Purchase which came with the continued persecution of Indigenous Americans.

There are more reasons to rename the Thomas Jefferson Library, however.

The name is cliché. After all, he was a national historical figure and leader. Thomas Jefferson was a United States president. The second one at that. He was one of the major founding fathers and one of the major authors of the Declaration of Independence. His name will certainly remain in history books for years to come, as it should. After all, I am not advocating for the censorship of his name. I advocate giving a new name recognition.

I think a proper new name for the library should shine a light on a local Black historical figure— potentially someone who is lesser-known but very important locally.

I propose renaming it the Harriet Robinson Scott Library.

Scott was involved in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford case where she and her husband fought for the freedom of their family. The courthouse in the city of St. Louis (now the Old Courthouse) decided that the Scott family deserved their freedom. Although the Missouri and US courts ultimately made the decision that Black people were second-class citizens regardless of slave status, we should be proud that the St. Louis region was on the right side of history in this instance.

The name is unique, and it belongs to a local hero. Furthermore, the name shows a commitment to diverse representation. A little tidbit that I think is also cool is that the library's new acronym, HRS, would be pronounced as "hers" and the current TJ Café could be renamed HRS Café.

But why stop here?

Let's rename University Drive "Dred S. Scott Drive," West Drive "Percy Green Drive," East Drive "Francis McIntosh Drive," and the section of Natural Bridge splitting North and South campus "Cori Bush Avenue." Let's recognize our living heroes and our silenced histories.

It is time for UMSL students to recognize the power of names. Let's use it for good.


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